Venus Williams, defending champion upset on first day of French Open

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PARIS (AP) — A year after stunning the tennis world by winning the French Open for the first tour title of her career, Jelena Ostapenko is again in rare company: a first-round loser as the defending champion at a Grand Slam tournament.

Ostapenko’s high-risk game produced far fewer rewards than problems Sunday at Roland Garros, and she bowed out to 67th-ranked Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 7-5, 6-3 at Court Philippe Chatrier.

The result made Ostapenko only the second reigning women’s champion to exit in the first round of the French Open a year later — it happened to 2005 winner Anastasia Myskina, too — and only the sixth at any major tournament in the professional era.

“I didn’t expect anything from this match,” Kozlova said in an on-court interview. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Hers was not the only significant surprise of Day 1.

Seven-time major champion Venus Williams was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by 85th-ranked Wang Qiang of China. Add that to the ninth-seeded Williams’ loss at the Australian Open in January, and this is the only time in the 37-year-old American’s career that she was sent home in the first round of back-to-back majors.

A first-time French Open finalist is already guaranteed with not only Williams and Ostapenko exiting the bottom half of the draw, but also Italians Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani.

In 2017, ranked only 47th and 20 years old, Ostapenko became the first woman since 1979 to win her initial tour-level trophy at a Grand Slam tournament.

But the Latvian has had a rough road this season: Her record is just 12-12.

Kozlova, meanwhile, is 24 and arrived at Roland Garros with an even worse mark for 2018 — 4-6.

In her only previous appearance in the main draw in Paris, last year, she lost in the first round. Overall, she had won one of seven matches at any Grand Slam site.

And against the No. 5-seeded Ostapenko, Kozlova earned the first victory of her career against someone ranked in the top 30.

In many ways, Ostapenko was her own undoing.

She wound up with 48 unforced errors, more than twice as many as Kozlova, and that was more than enough to render Ostapenko’s 22-13 edge in winners irrelevant. Ostapenko allowed her opponent to convert 7 of 16 break points, including when a backhand landed in the net to end the match after about 1½ hours.

Moments later, she was gone, swiftly heading to the locker room. Ostapenko raised her left hand to acknowledge the crowd’s applause, but she kept her eyes focused on the ground as she walked off.

Kozlova stayed steady despite the enormity of the moment and while dealing with a blister on the back of her right foot. She was treated by a trainer during a medical timeout after the first set.

“Actually, I have three blisters, but one was the worst, with blood,” Kozlova said afterward. “When you are playing the match, sometimes you are not feeling the pain. … I tried to stay focused.”

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | ScoresMen’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw

Justin Schoenefeld gets U.S.’ first men’s aerials World Cup win in 4 years

Justin Schoenefeld
U.S. Ski & Snowboard
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Justin Schoenefeld ended a four-year U.S. men’s aerials drought with his first World Cup win Saturday in Belarus.

Schoenfeld, 21, hit a double full-full-full in the super final to beat a field that included world champion Maxim Burov of Russia. Burov was fourth, one spot behind another American, Chris Lillis. Full results are here.

“I’m pretty speechless right now,” Schoenefeld said, according to U.S. Ski & Snowboard. “I’m just shocked. It just all came so quick, all of a sudden the two finals were over, and I was on top of the podium. I probably landed two of my training jumps yesterday, but I managed to land all of my comp jumps down to my feet.”

Schoenefeld’s best previous World Cup finish was fourth, in Belarus last season.

Lillis earned the U.S.’ last World Cup men’s aerials victory on Feb. 20, 2016, also in Belarus. The four-year gap between wins marked the longest for the U.S. men since aerials was added as an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Schoenefeld also became the first American of either gender to win a World Cup aerials event in two years, since Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018. That gap was the longest for the U.S. since 2005.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach

Kaillie Humphries wins bobsled world title in first season for U.S.

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Two-time Olympic champion Kaillie Humphries won a bobsled world title in her first season since switching allegiance from Canada to the U.S., ending recent German dominance.

Humphries, with brakewoman Lauren Gibbs, edged German junior world champ Kim Kalicki by .37 of a second combining times from four runs between Friday and Saturday in Altenberg, Germany.

“I love this track. It’s very challenging, one of the hardest in the world,” Humphries said, according to U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton. “It demands a lot of focus, a lot of respect every minute you’re on that track. So to be able to win here, I know the Germans and the spectators, everybody, have worked so hard and this week, no exceptions. I’m proud of all of the girls.”

Canadian Christine de Bruin took bronze for a second straight year. Full results are here.

Humphries, who married a former U.S. bobsledder, was released by Canada in September after filing verbal abuse and harassment claims against a coach, saying she no longer felt safe with the program. As a Canadian, Humphries won 2010 and 2014 Olympic titles, plus 2012 and 2013 World titles.

Humphries joined German Sandra Kiriasis as the only female drivers to win three world titles. She is already the only female driver with multiple Olympic titles.

German Mariama Jamanka, the reigning Olympic champion and defending world champion, finished fourth in Altenberg.

Triple U.S. Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor didn’t compete as she sits out the season due to pregnancy. Meyers Taylor and Gibbs teamed for silver in PyeongChang.

The world championships continue Sunday with the conclusion of the two-man competition. German Francesco Friedrich, eyeing his sixth straight world title, leads after the first two of four runs.

A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

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